Football: Gala Fairydean Rovers 1-0 Preston Athletic

Ben Herdman, in action for former club Kelso Utd, was Gala boss Steven Noble's man of the match
Ben Herdman, in action for former club Kelso Utd, was Gala boss Steven Noble's man of the match

Following the seven goal hammering of Border rivals Vale of Leithen the week before perhaps it was inevitable that this game failed to live up to the heightened expectations of the home support.

However, for Gala boss Steven Noble this second successive home league victory allied to another clean-sheet was just as satisfying.

Whilst the game could never be considered a classic it was none the less important for Noble’s team to build on the good work of the previous week and attempt to finish in as high a position as possible in this season’s Lowland League table.

The Fairydean Rovers management team had watched Preston’s home defeat to Dalbeattie Star the previous mid-week and, despite the loss, Steven Noble was aware that the East Lothian side would be stuffy and well organised opponents.

Cheered on by the vociferous youngsters of the GFR Ultra’s, Noble’s men were constantly frustrated by the Panners. Craig Nisbet’s visitors flooded the midfield and were resolute in defence during a frustrating first half for the home side where despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession they could not find a way past Craig Pennycuick in the Preston goal.

Following the introduction of Stuart Noble at half-time the Fairydean Rovers attempted to bring a bit more width to their game and began to create more chances. With Hibs loanee Aaron Scott pulling the strings in midfield and the ever busy Jack Hay’s constant running behind the Preston back four then it looked only a matter of time before a goal would come.

In 75 minutes Gala’s persistence paid off when Hay bore down on goal and was tugged back by Darryl Wilson. Referee David Doig pointed at the spot and produced a straight red card for the distraught Preston defender.

Captain for the day Billy Miller fired the spot-kick low to Pennycuick’s right but the big keeper made a superb save. As the ball broke back into the area Jack Hay was first to respond and fire an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net.

Gala tried hard to grab a second and put the game beyond the visitors but Pennycuick and his defence held firm.

The visitors attempted to get back into the game and a series of corners caused a few worrying moments but former Kelso youngster Ben Herdman in particular was in commanding form for the home side’s back line.

Manager Noble was a happy man at the final whistle. “I’m delighted to get that win against a well organised and hard-working Preston side.

“They made it difficult for us but at half-time we made some changes and tried to get some width into our play as the midfield area had been congested in the first half. That paid off and we started to create a few more chances and that ultimately led to the penalty.

“We should have had a few more as our play from defence to midfield was good but our final ball was poor at times.

“I felt we were in control throughout the game and Aaron Scott and Ross Aitchison were superb for us in mid-field whilst Jack was electric in and around the box but for me the Man of the Match was young Ben Herdman.

“He’s a great lad and a top player and we’re delighted that he has signed on for another year here at Netherdale.”

Noble’s men have only two more league game left and he will be hoping that the form they have shown in the previous two-games will carry over into the remaining games against high-flying Spartans and bottom club Threave Rovers.

Gala Fairydean Rovers: M Wilson, L Stephen, B Miller, T Hope, S Main, B Herdman, A Scott, D Bonnar, J Hay, R Aitchison (McColm 65), R Lamb (S Noble 45).